I never thought I would be ready for preseason NFL football, but I am at my breaking point with training camp conversations. Fortunately, we are only a week away from the Redskins' first preseason game at Buffalo. I have never been so excited about a preseason game.
We finally see RGIII against an actual NFL opponent and all we have seen to this point is "practice." I'm feeling like Allen Iverson here: "we're talking about practice."
The daily individual, positional, and team drills are swell. However, let's keep it real here: there have been plenty of "Ashburn All-Americans" (copyright Brian Mitchell) that could not get it done under the bright lights. Some guys are just gamers and are not good practice players.
In this week's "Chain Reactions" we take a look at another key to RGIII's success, the Nats leave well enough alone, and the face of the Wizards has high hopes for the future.
Banks Battling for his Job?
There was plenty of talk this offseason about whether or not Brandon Banks could make the team without being a real option at wide receiver. Well, so far in the practices (yes, we're talking about practice again) Banks has pretty much caught everything and has looked good running routes.
Banks will need to do it under the bright lights. WE know what he can do as a returner, despite his size. The real question should be not about Banks' ability to make plays at wide receiver, but about whether or not anyone else on the roster can really return punts and kicks.
The obvious candidates to push Banks for that spot are Aldrick Robinson and Terrence Austin. Robinson got rave reviews in the offseason for his work and Austin handled return duties at UCLA. For whatever reason, Austin never has gotten many opportunities under the bright lights in the regular season.
The preseason games will be important for this battle. These guys need to show they can protect the football and give RGIII and the offense good field position to start drives. So often the third phase of football is overlooked. However, this year, special teams success -- especially the return game -- needs to be at a high level to support the rookie franchise quarterback.
Figuring out what to do with these three is important for depth, but with the upgrades at wide receiver and capable tight ends galore, how many snaps at wide receiver could they really see, barring injury?
Banks certainly needs to show he's not just a pro on the field, but off of it too. If he does that, he should be able to keep his roster position. However, if he drops the ball, one of the other receivers will need to scoop it up and run with it.
Nationals Stay Course
There was no major shakeup on deadline day for the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. I, for one, am glad that the Nationals kept their longterm approach to building their franchise.
They seem to have a low-ego locker room that works well together. They do not need to mess that mix up for a rent-a-player especially one that could cost them big-time minor league prospects.
The Nationals certainly could use some help at catcher, as well as an extra middle infielder until Ian Desmond returns. They also might need to grab another starter to prepare for the eventual shutdown of Stephen Strasburg.
Just because the non-waiver deadline has passed does not mean the Nationals may not do that. ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted this out this morning.
The Nationals have a high number of Boras clients, and you wonder if Derek Lowe might be the next to join WAS, after being cut by CLE.
The Nats will soon have some extra pop in the lineup, as Jayson Werth could be back by the weekend. His experience might be key for a Nationals team that is starting August in unfamiliar territory as the front runner.
The Nats have found out the hard way the last two nights that teams like the Phllies are not about to roll over and make life easy for them. They will need to be mentally tough down the stretch to deal with the ups and downs of a close division race.
Ted Leonsis Should be Happy
Wizards point guard John Wall had some interesting quotes in a recent interview with Dime magazine (via DC Sports Bog). They are the kind of quotes that should make owner Ted Leonsis very happy.
"You wanna do it all," Wall told Dime. "You wanna be an All-Star. You wanna be one of the top five best point guards. You wanna make the playoffs, and get this city back to where they know they can be. When you have the playoffs, I heard how crazy it could be when everybody is wearing all white. That’s what I want to get to. I want to be the savior."
He was not done.
"As a player," Wall said, describing what would make him feel successful, "I think be where everybody expects me to be: lead my team, being a clutch performer, being a superstar. That’s what I think about putting it in exact words that I need to, so I can finally lead to my superstar statement and be one of the top five point guards in the league."
I agree wholeheartedly and have written very similar things about my expectations of the face of the Wizards franchise. The Wizards have no Plan B at this point; they need Wall to the man. It's good to see he is embracing it, and from all indications, he has the work ethic to back it up.
As I have said over and over, he will need help from his teammates. But he definitely needs to lead them there and it sounds like he is well aware of it.